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***Deputy Regional Director’s Travel Blog- My Trip to Texas Chenier Plain Refuges Complex!***
Southwest Region, March 2, 2012
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Highlight from my trip-hanging out with Refuge staff!
Highlight from my trip-hanging out with Refuge staff! - Photo Credit: Joy Nicholopoulos
Highlight from my trip-on the beach with law enforcement!
Highlight from my trip-on the beach with law enforcement! - Photo Credit: Joy Nicholopoulos
Highlight from my trip- tour of the Winnie Depot construction
Highlight from my trip- tour of the Winnie Depot construction - Photo Credit: Joy Nicholopoulos
Highlight from my trip- New LEED Certified Gold office building.
Highlight from my trip- New LEED Certified Gold office building. - Photo Credit: Joy Nicholopoulos
Highlight from my trip- pond and boardwalk at Complex Office.
Highlight from my trip- pond and boardwalk at Complex Office. - Photo Credit: Joy Nicholopoulos

Monday February 27th through Tuesday February 28th – Texas Chenier Plain Refuges Complex:

I arrived in Houston around noon and was driven by Anahuac Refuge Manager Jimmy Laurent to the new Texas Chenier Plain National Wildlife Refuges Complex Office.

 

As we drove up, the brand new LEED Certified Gold office building came into view (Stay tuned for press release and more photos on this great news!).

The building is very beautiful on the outside, but STUNNING once you go inside. The details and little things make it a very special place. Tim Cooper, the Refuge Complex Manager gave me a quick tour of the building and left me in Tammie’s capable hands. Tammie fired up the simulated air boat “ride” (that she designed) and I felt like I was outside in the marsh, enjoying the beautiful view (without the bugs!). Just as I was getting the good scoop and watching the second half of a video (the more artistic video tour with beautiful music), Tim came back and said we were burning daylight and we had to get a move on for the actual air boat ride on McFaddin NWR.

We got to McFaddin and Doug Head was waiting for us in the shop (where I got to see some really nifty large marsh going vehicles) to take us on tour of the McFaddin marshes. Neither Doug, nor Tim offered to let me drive the big monsters. After putting on all of our PPE, including a HUGE life jacket that kept me nice and warm, we had a great tour of the marshes. I wasn’t attacked by the bugs like Tim was—probably because I am not as sweet as he is. The McFaddin NWR marsh tour was fantastic. Thanks to Doug for driving.

Tim and I took a quick drive on what used to be State Highway 87. Besides the beach being completely trashed, we also saw a dead dolphin washed up on the beach. Tim said that the short driving tour was on the “nice” stretch of the beach and I would see the really bad part the next day with law enforcement. I also got a very quick tour of the new Texas Point NWR building. It was impressive and built to withstand some fierce winds. I am so glad our folks have a nice, safe new building.

Tim was so gracious with his time, he even took me to an authentic Cajun seafood restaurant for dinner and as he dropped me off at my hotel, he said that he was headed back to the office. I think he had some GovTrip or QuickTime stuff to get done before the morning.

Tim picked me up at 7:30 the next morning and we headed off for a tour of the Winnie Depot construction, where I met Nathan and Ray, and got to see two huge concrete walls being tilted (WOW!). Of course I was wearing a hard hat, safety goggles, and a safety vest. That will be quite a neat campus once all the construction is completed. Nathan grossed me out with photos of some giant salamanders that they rescued during construction. Those things were UUUggg- gly!

We then met up with Jimmy Laurent at Anahuac to visit the soon to be demolished partially constructed visitor’s center. I was sad to see the skeleton of the building. It is in really poor and unsafe shape. I hope we can tear that puppy down soon and get a good quality, safe and beautiful new Visitor’s Center constructed there soon. Our folks and the public deserve that.

Tim and I met up with Jeremy, Patrick, and Doug at the other end of McFaddin Refuge and drove the beach and the maintenance road until the road was pretty much swallowed by the ocean. Tim was not kidding when he said that was the bad part! I told Tim, Jeremy, and Doug, that I would push the truck, but if we got really stuck, they were digging us out while I hid from the mosquitos in the truck! I was only kidding -- sort of. The asphalt chunks and remnants of the road were visible among all the trash on the beach and in the damaged marsh. It was a sad sight to see. I am just glad that it was still too cold for the infamous sun bathers to be out and about.

We met up with the rest of the staff for a very nice lunch at a great little BBQ restaurant and had a very nice lunch where I got to visit with folks and try to get them to ask me questions about anything that was on their minds. They were kinda shy at first but did manage to ask some really good questions. My favorite part of traveling to the field is to get to meet all the great people who do the hard work to accomplish our Service mission. The folks I met at Texas Chenier Plain Refuges Complex are an amazing group of hard working folks and it makes me very proud to be able to support them as their Deputy RD.

My wonderful trip was capped off by a quick tour back at the Complex Office of the pond and boardwalk with Tim and Stephanie. We didn’t see the otter that was rumored to be in the area (Sure Stephanie, I believe you! This is also the woman that thinks the giant ugly salamanders are “cute”!), but the boardwalk was a fitting end to a great trip.

Hello to all the staff at Texas Chenier Plain Refuges Complex and thank you all for disrupting your work day to spend a little time with me. I sure enjoyed meeting you all!

See you next time!- Joy Nicholopoulos, Deputy Regional Director for the SW Region


Contact Info: Nicole Haskett, 505-248-6457gov, nicole_haskett@fws.gov



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